December 07, 2006
Morris Library renovation project is on schedule
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Morris Library renovation project at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is on schedule — maybe a little ahead —with workers poised to begin constructing the large addition planned for the building's north side, officials said.
David H. Carlson, dean of library affairs, said exterior brick and masonry work on the existing structure is nearly complete, and workers have completed about 80 percent of the metal exterior for the new tower-like structure and are awaiting the new windows for that area. The studs for new interior walls are nearly complete throughout the existing structure and workers have removed most of the old elevator systems and are installing the new, larger ones. Also, workers have partially completed a new fire sprinkler system — previously non-existent — in the existing building.
Another major milestone involved closing up the roof over the top floor of the existing building. Ongoing renovations forced work crews to leave the roof open in multiple places for several months, which made the building vulnerable to rainstorms. With those holes now closed, Carlson said the project is moving ahead rapidly.
"I have to say, maybe we're even a little ahead of schedule at this point," Carlson said. "Of course this winter, if we have some really bad weather, you could see that lead go away in a hurry. But overall we're very pleased with the progress."
Construction crews began working on the $48 million project late in 2005. The project includes a complete renovation of the existing structure and 50,000-square-foot addition on the building's north side. The project is scheduled for completion by mid- to late 2008.
Throughout the project, the library has maintained a circulation desk on the first floor of Morris Library, as well as numerous workstations and direct access to periodicals and other materials. Workers relocated the majority of the library's collection to the McLafferty Annex, however, where it will stay until the project's completion.
To obtain material, patrons request the items at the circulation desk or online. Library workers then obtain the item and deliver it to the circulation desk for pick-up. As the fall semester and 2006 wind to a close, Carlson said the temporary arrangements to maintain the availability of library materials are working well.
"The first semester we were doing it was a little rough because we were moving and when someone requested something we didn't know if it was at McLafferty, at Morris, in a truck or in a box about to be moved," Carlson said. "Since then, though, it's been pretty smooth. In fact, some people have said they prefer it because all they have to do is make a request. They don't have to actually go find the item themselves. "
Carlson said his staff continues doing excellent work under trying circumstances, efficiently maintaining the library's collection and filling requests amid a sometimes noisy and dirty environment. He also credited the general contractor, River City Construction, with keeping the distractions to a minimum and maintaining a flexible work schedule.
In 2007, onlookers will see great progress in the project, Carlson said.
"You're going to start to see a real shift from renovation to new construction," Carlson said. "The foundation is being poured and the structural steel used to frame the new portion of the library is either on site or will be soon. A lot of will be going on in the new space and people will see it begin to rise from the mud over there."
The sixth and seventh floors will remain unfinished space at the project's completion, providing room for the library's collections to grow. As areas are completed during the coming year, Carlson said library staff will re-occupy them and open those to the public.
"The main challenge will remain living in a building with so much ongoing construction," Carlson said. "We keep telling ourselves and everyone else, 'it will be worth it in the end.'"
Elevating Morris Library to rank in the top 50 of the Association of Research Libraries' publicly supported academic research libraries in the United States is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.